I was interviewed recently for ‘Costing the Earth’ on Radio 4 for a programme that they are running on ‘Eco Homes‘ (due out 12th March if you are interested). One question they asked me was:
“Why are so few people building their own homes in this country as opposed to the numbers being built on the continent?”
My reasoning ran something like this:
- I think there has been an issue with the perceived quality of individually designed homes in the past but that this, mainly down to the improvements in Building Regulations, is no longer such an issue.
- A UK standard model that is based around a volume house builder means that new houses have, until recently, come to the market built on estates by volume companies rather than as one off designs.
- The Planning system has liked to know what every house on an estate is going to look like rather than allow for individual design.
- all of this has meant that until very recently the term “self-builder” was just not one that many people had heard of and certainly not within the context of a relatively stress free delivery method open to all.
House builders offer pretty standard products in a very easy to make a decision kind of way – just choose your kitchen worktop and add salt. The developer has taken all the risk for you, and most of the choices.
The self-build model in comparison is a “homemade” style of delivery that requires more preparation, more time and more engagement. But it also offers the opportunity to use local ingredients seasoned to taste.
Both of these options are valid and both have their strengths and weaknesses. One weakness about the self-build model that frustrates me, is that it is very difficult to get much pre-fabrication at an affordable rate for a once-off house. Having both options readily available actually makes overall performance of the sector stronger and helps spur innovation. We use some great new technologies in once-off house builds that are not the mainstream yet, whilst things like BIM are happening much more at a volume level than at an individual level.
What could do with changing is the perception that self-building is difficult or bizarre.
It is now an established delivery route with many serious companies offering excellent value services to a good quality. There is definitely more than one good option for finding your new house these days!
How do you feel about ‘ready meal’ houses? We’d love to hear your comments on the subject so please, post here!